Transat, Anyone?

The IMOCA’s have been in New York City for a minute after racing across from France. We got aboard the boat that won the last one, and they showed us a bit about how to sail these yachts.

They’ve been berthed and operating in several locations in NYC since their arrival, and our own home port, Miramar Yacht Club in Sheepshead Bay, did a lot of the hosting.

The Transat x Miramar. As well as being our home port, Miramar hosted the logistics and support teams for the Transat sailors who raced from France to New York.

What’s the Transat?

It’s a venerable distance race – across the North Atlantic, to be specific – that’s been going on for a long time. The current class of boat used is the IMOCA 60, an all-out monohull with foils. Yup; it gets up out of the water and routinely sails at speeds in the 30’s with top end documented performance breaking the 40-knot threshold.

Some of the fleet! Foreground: Maitre CoQ, who gave us a private tour one afternoon. This was at Moonbeam Gateway Marina, in Jamaica Bay, almost swimming distance from our digs at Sheepshead Bay. We drove a Zodiac RIB from the support team there and back.

This is one design racing at its toughest: single or double handed races across oceans and seas. And, it’s part of what qualifies sailors to compete in the Vendee Globe: the singlehanded, around-the-world race. The only thing tougher than this might be the Mini Transat, where they race 6.5 meter boats singlehanded. They’re not foiling, so the race takes longer. Singlehanded, on a 20-foot boat, with spinnaker when conditions permit. World’s. Toughest. Race.

Not to take anything away from the IMOCA’s, however, as the high speeds of foiling create other difficulties. These boats are a sight to behold, even when simply tied to the dock. We got a close up glimpse of them, plus a private tour aboard Maitre CoQ, last week. I’d never been that close to one before much less aboard.

Fun facts to know and tell:

The boats are on display/ parade / etc this weekend in NY Harbor, and apparently did an exhibition race on Friday (which we didn’t learn about in advance unfortunately). I had a class out on Friday; I thought I saw a few in the distance, but wasn’t sure, and what I saw was way below the upper Harbor anyway out in Ambrose Channel.

The Class Association has strict one design rules, so the boats are much more identical than different.

Sail inventory is limited to 8, and it can take an hour and a half to switch out a sail underway.

While there are berths on each side for the sailor to sleep in, it’s often best to sleep sitting up in the special spring attenuated chairs that alleviate much of the pounding. Ouch. Sleep is in very brief cat-naps a few times a day (for 9 days or more!).

Food: everything is brought aboard prepared in two medium sized bags, and heated up as needed over the engine compartment. The leftover packaging reduces to two small bags after the ocean crossing.

The diesel engine has only 40 hp, but has two alternators for its main purpose: charging batteries. The transmission is secured in neutral before the race with special ties. When the engine is in gear for parking or transporting in between races, it’s shifted with lines that are basically strings, and throttle is applied that way as well. Quite awkward!

There’s an escape corridor and hatch underneath the hull in case the boat goes over all the way (turning turtle) and doesn’t recover itself.

The boat we were on (didn’t see others up close) was largely Harkenized! (“If you know, you know.”)

Yes, Virginia, some winches DO turn counter-clockwise! Specialty item, for sure, but the large drums in the cockpit of the boat we visited spun both ways depending on where mounted.

The IMOCA’s start their race back to France next week!

For more about this exciting class, upcoming events, and some insights into some of the sailors themselves, see these links:

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